In order to visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums you need pre-purchased tickets: you can no longer simply show up at the door, wait in line for your turn, purchase the ticket and walk in.
While one of the most common sights in Rome used to be that of tourists in line to visit the Sistine Chapel, patiently waiting in line to admire the work of Michelangelo, at the moment you need pre-purchased tickets to the Sistine Chapel for a specific time slot. The good news is that the long lines to get in are a thing of the past. The bad news is that you have to plan your visit in advance and with the amount of information that is available online, deciding which ticket or tour to get may be confusing.
In this post, I will explain how you can get tickets to the Sistine Chapel and make the most of your time there. Let’s first see what’s so special about the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican and why you should not miss them on your trip to Rome.
Why You Must Visit The Sistine Chapel When In Rome
Let me clarify that the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums are actually not in Rome, but in Vatican City. However, as this is at the center of Rome, you can easily visit during your trip to the Italian capital.
Together with St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel is the most famous site in Vatican City. This is where Michelangelo painted his masterpiece, The Last Judgement, more than 500 years ago. Right next to the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums display the enormous collection of art accumulated by the various popes throughout the centuries.
If you enjoy fine arts, there is no way you want to skip the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.
Visiting The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is located in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. Originally known as Cappella Magna, it takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who initiated restoration works in 1477 and used it for both religious purposes and for his functions as pope. Nowadays, the Sistine Chapel is the site of the Papal Conclave, the process through which a new pope is elected.
What makes it such a popular place to visit is the many incredible frescoes that adorn it. These include works of Botticelli, Pinturicchio and Ghirlandaio. Yet, it’s The Last Judgement, painted on the ceiling by Michelangelo between 1535 and 1541 upon request of Pope Clement VII and Paul III, that attracts visitors every day.
I strongly advise you to actually get a guided tour for your visit of the Sistine Chapel. For as nice as it is to just raise your head and appreciate the beauty of all the frescoes, it’s great to have someone that helps you put everything in context and get a better understanding of the historical, cultural and artistic value of what you are seeing.
The Vatican Museums
Located right next to the Sistine Chapel and usually visited right after, the Vatican Museums have a formidable collection of religious and art works – from Roman sculptured to masterpieces of Renaissance art.
The Museums were founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, have a whopping 54 galleries and not only they are among the largest museums in the world, but they also are one of the most visited.
Tickets to the Sistine Chapel include admission to the Vatican Museums.
How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums
More than 25000 people visit the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums every day. It’s one of the most famous places to visit in the world, but unfortunately also one of the world’s 10 worst tourist attractions for lines – waiting time used to be up to four hours and lines could go all the way around the walls of Vatican City, with people waiting patiently in the sun and even under the rain.
The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums are even more packed than usual when passengers of cruise ships are in town. If you want to avoid them, try to go between 12:00 and 2:00 pm, when most of the group tours are having lunch. Either way, it’s recommended to get tickets in advance.
While now pre-purchased tickets are a requirement when visiting the Sistine Chapel, no matter the kind of ticket you get, you’re bound to stand in line for the security checks. Beware of companies that suggest you may avoid these lines.
Continue reading to find the best available options for visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.
Way n. 1: Get tickets via the official Vatican website
This is the official website to get tickets to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. Online tickets cost €17 (around $21 USD). If you request the audio-guide it is an additional €7 (around $8.60 USD). Reduced tickets for children between 6 and 18 years of age are €8 ($9.80) but you’ll need a document to prove your child’s age at the venue.
Once you buy the tickets, you will be sent a confirmation email with a PDF which you either print or show on your smartphone.
You can only buy these tickets up to 60 days in advance and for a maximum of 10 persons. You will have to pick a time slot for your visit, too. The website suggests that modifications to the reservations are available once, but once you purchase the ticket you can’t get a refund.
Way n. 2: Get tickets to the Sistine Chapel via a third party site
If you like the idea of doing your own thing, you may want to opt for plain skip-the-line tickets – and perhaps have an added audio guide. This gives you the great advantage to go at your own pace, skip the parts that you are not interested in, and linger a bit longer on those that catch your attention.
Prices for tickets to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum via a third party site start at $25 USD, so the price difference with the official site is minimal. The main advantage is that there is a clear cancellation policy of up to 24 hours in advance, and there is an easy-to-talk-to customer service .
You can buy your tickets here.
Way n. 3: Go on a guided tour
A guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums is the best way to skip the line at the ticket counter. Prices of tours vary, depending on whether you pick a group or a private tour, and once you buy the tour you have the option of canceling and getting a refund up to 24 hours in advance.
Group tours start at $25, and can be more expensive depending on the add-ons.
For a selection of guided tours of the Vatican, click here.
A guided private tour has the great advantage that you still get a guide, but you can go at your own pace. These tours are definitely more expensive than the group options, with prices starting at €112 per person, but worth the price if you like the idea of having a guide at your disposal.
Way n. 4: Go very early with a guide
The good old trick of having an early start actually works. You can get in the Sistine Chapel as early as 7:30 am. However, in order to have the privilege of getting early access, you have to buy your tickets to the Sistine Chapel through a tour company – in other words you’ll have to join a guided tour. Tour operators pay large sums of money to be able to use the back exit which goes directly to Saint Peter’s Basilica – which individuals can’t use. This means that early access tours also include a guided visit of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Prices of early morning Vatican tours start at $100, depending on which option you get.
You can book your early morning tour of the Vatican here.
Early Wednesday mornings are good to visit the Sistine Chapel: crowds will start arriving after 11:00 am, once the Papal audience has ended.
Way n. 5: Go in the late afternoon or evening
This is one of the most exclusive ways of visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, and it is only possible on Fridays and Saturdays, when the Vatican Museums stay open until 10:30 pm and allow access as late as 8:30 pm. It’s definitely a bit more expensive than a regular tour, but a great option if you like the idea of having the Museums and the Chapel almost completely to yourself.
Night tours of the Vatican cost $90 USD and can be booked here.
If you like the idea of visiting the Vatican later than usual, plan your trip around it, getting to Rome on a Thursday and leaving no earlier than a Saturday.
Way n. 6: Get the Rome City Pass or the Vatican Pass
The Rome City Pass and the Vatican Pass are excellent options if you want to skip the line at the Vatican Museums and get access to other attractions in Rome. There are various passes that offer considerable savings both in terms of time and money.
You can get your Vatican and Rome city pass here.
Check out my post How To Make The Most Of The Roma Pass.
Practical Information For Visiting The Sistine Chapel And Vatican Museums
Vatican Museum hours
The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums are open Monday to Thursday from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm (last access is at 4:30 pm), and Fridays and Saturdays from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm (last access at 8:30 pm). Last Sunday of the month visits are temporarily suspended.
The Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums remain close on 1 January, 11 February, 19 March, 22 April, 1 May, 29 June, 14, 15 and 16 August, 1 November, 25 and 26 December.
Tickets bought on the official site cost €17 ($21 USD). Reduced tickets for children between the ages of 6 and 18 cost €8 ($9.80 USD). Children below the age of 6 can get in for free.
Free entrance to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums
Free visits of the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of every month have been suspended.
The museum is free to visit for people which have a certified invalidity of more than 74%. For non self-sufficient visitors, the free entry is extended also to the person accompanying them.
Keep in mind that the free tickets for disabled visitors can’t be booked online. You will have to get your ticket at the Special Permits or Reception desk in the entrance hall of the museum, but to get that you will need to show a certificate of invalidity. These tickets are skip the line.
Make sure to dress modestly for your visit to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Visitors are regularly turned down for not being dressed appropriately.
No matter what kind of ticket you have, you’ll have to go through a metal detector. To speed up the security checks, avoid bringing objects such as large umbrellas, sticks (unless walking sticks), selfie sticks and tripods – you’ll have to leave them at the cloakroom anyways.
Photography and drawing
Photos are not allowed at the Sistine Chapel. Photos of the Vatican Museum are allowed only for personal use. The use of flash is not allowed, as well as that of tripods and selfie sticks.
Drawings are allowed only after having obtained a special permission by the Directorate of the Vatican Museums, or for students enrolled at the Rome Academy of Fine Arts.
You have to leave bags, backpacks or trolleys at the cloakroom. This is free of charge.
Make sure to check out my itineraries and other posts about Rome’s best attractions:
- 18 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Rome
- The Best Things To Do In Rome
- Seven Smart Ways To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets And Skip The Lines
- A Guide To Visiting The Pantheon, Rome + What You Should Know About Pantheon Tickets
- How To Skip The Line At St. Peter’s Basilica
- How To Visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
- A Guide To Visiting The Colosseum
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path
- 20 Great Day Trips From Rome
- All The Food In Rome You Should Eat: 25 Delicious Dishes